Who can be sued in a truck accident case?

Truck accidents can be particularly devastating because of the hefty size and weight of the vehicle. Unfortunately, in Illinois, truck accidents are a common occurrence. If you have been involved in an 18-wheeler, semi-truck, or a tractor-trailer accident, you may be wondering what to do or worried who can be sued in a truck accident.

Truck accidents can be pretty complicated and involve multiple factors including the truck driver, the owner of the truck, logistic companies, truck manufacturing companies, and even more. If you are wondering who you can sue for your truck accident, our attorneys at Chicago Car Accident Lawyers may help you.

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Illinois Truck Accident Statistics

  • A snapshot of data from the Illinois Department of Transportation revealed that there have been 63 fatalities involving semi-trucks as of Aug 11, 2020. 
  • Moreover, the most recent detailed data for truck crash statistics showed that 12,267 truck accidents occurred in 2018. This accounts for almost 4% of all vehicle accidents in Illinois.
  • It is also reported that 106 truck accidents resulted in death.
  • Additionally, 2,075 people were injured in truck accidents.
  • It was also revealed that 405 injuries were incapacitating injuries.

What’s most unfortunate is that all these numbers show an increase from the corresponding 2017 data.

Who To Blame for Your Truck Accident in Illinois

Since the trucking industry involves many moving parts, determining who is at fault can be tricky. Here are some of the parties that may potentially be responsible and sued in a truck accident:

Truck Driver

The first person who comes to mind when determining liability is the truck driver. In most cases, if the accident is caused by the negligent action of the driver, they will be sued. 

The theory of negligence states that a person owes a reasonable duty of care and violates that duty which causes harm to another person. Hence, a truck driver’s negligence occurs when they fail to use the level of care that is expected of a prudent driver, and their negligence causes property damage, injury, or worse to others.

Examples of negligent behavior are if the driver is:

  • Drowsy driving, which is one of the biggest concerns when it comes to commercial truck drivers;
  • Driving under the influence of alcohol or drugs (including prescription medication);
  • Driving distracted, including using the phone, fiddling with the hardware in the truck, or not paying attention to traffic for any other reason;
  • Failing to check blind spots;
  • Not yielding or giving right of way;
  • Not following traffic rules and not obeying road signs and signals;
  • Not practicing defensive driving in any way.

The Trucking Company

The trucking company that employs the truck driver is usually held responsible for a truck accident, through vicarious liability. Therefore, in most cases, a truck driver cannot be sued in a truck accident case.

Vicarious liability is also known as the “respondeat superior” and makes the employer liable for the negligence if it takes place within the scope and course of the employment. This means that the driver must be driving the truck as part of the task assigned by the company when the accident took place.

This is because trucking companies have to adhere to strict federal regulations when it comes to the safety of their employees and other people occupying the road. These regulations are commonly known as “Hours of Service Rules” and dictate how many hours a truck driver can and how many times they need to take a break or rest so that fatigue-related incidents can be minimized.

Hours of Service Rules: Typically cargo-carrying drivers have an 11-hour drive limit after 10 uninterrupted hours off-duty. Additionally, they also should not drive for more than 14 hours after they start work following the 10-hour off-duty period. Overall, a truck driver may not drive more than 60/70 hours in 7/8 consecutive days. They can restart their shift after a 34 hour off-duty.

Trucking companies need to follow these federal guidelines and regulate how long their drivers are working as well as how much load they are carrying. They are also responsible for providing proper training to their drivers on the road.

Trucking companies also carry higher insurance policies than other drivers. Although this means they have more coverage for serious damage, it also serves as a deterrent for accidents because the agency will make efforts to avoid paying too much in case of an accident.

Keep in mind, though, that just because a trucking company is also liable, does not remove the liability from the truck driver if they have been negligent.

sued in a truck accident

Owner of the Truck

Trucking accidents are not always the fault of a trucking company. The owner of non-commercial trucks may also be held responsible if their truck is not kept in safe driving conditions or if they allowed other people to drive their vehicles.

For example, in Illinois, parents of children who drive trucks may be held liable under the “agency theory” if the child was running an errand for their parent at the time of the accident. However, parents may not be held liable if the accident was caused by a child who was driving the vehicle for his own purpose, even if the parents let them use the truck.

The determination of what constitutes a family errand is considered by a jury during the trial.

Truck/Parts Manufacturer

If the truck accident was caused by a defect in the truck’s components, the truck manufacturer or designer company may be sued. Examples of truck manufacturing-related accidents include jammed brakes, tire blowouts, defective gas pedals, or faulty suspension system.

In this case, the manufacturer of the truck or the manufacturer of the components of the truck may be held liable through a product liability claim. Product liability is a field of law that holds manufacturers, designers, and sellers responsible for selling defective products that lead to harm to customers.

Product liability claims can also help compensate the victims but also create awareness among the public about a certain manufacturer’s vehicles.

At Chicago Car Accident Lawyers, we will need to investigate these companies to find out whether they were negligent in creating the product that led to the accident.

Mechanics

A semi-truck can travel thousands of miles every month so you can guess it requires a lot of maintenance. Since a single truck accident can cause so much devastation, it is critical to ensure that all trucks remain in safe driving conditions. In most cases, trucking companies and non-commercial truck drivers outsource their truck’s maintenance to mechanics who specialize in maintaining large vehicles. However, sometimes these companies fail to do a proper job of servicing and maintaining the vehicle. 

As a result, it can cause catastrophic accidents on the road.

When these maintenance companies are responsible for faulty maintenance that causes harm, they can be held accountable for negligence. So, if you are involved in a truck accident, you may be able to file a claim against the mechanics directly for property damage and injury suffered.

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Cargo Company

Sometimes, trucking accidents may not have anything to do with the truck or the trucking company but maybe the fault of cargo companies that load property carelessly into a vehicle.

Improper loading of cargo may result in the cargo shifting and disbalancing the truck or falling off the truck. These objects can jackknife and hit oncoming traffic or lie on the road, creating a road hazard and causing serious injuries and even death.

If this happens, then the cargo company will be legally liable for the truck accident.

Professional shippers need to let truck drivers and trucking companies know about the dangers of transporting certain objects. If they do not do this and an accident happens, they can be sued.

Government Body

In some events, a truck accident may not be caused by anything associated with the trucking company at all. It could be a fault of a government body too. Examples of factors that can lead to truck accidents are broken roads, missing signs, and any other road hazards which should have been taken care of by the government entity responsible for their repair and maintenance.

If you believe that a government body’s negligence caused your accident, then you need to understand that there are a few key differences between a regular personal injury claim and a government claim.

The major difference is that the statute of limitations — the time limit for a plaintiff to file their claim — is halved. Under Illinois law, a person has two years to file a personal injury claim. However, claims against the government may be filed in just one year, although this timeframe also varies case by case.

If you fail to file your claim in the allotted time, your case will be dismissed and you will lose any chance of getting compensation for your damages.

You should also keep in mind that a government entity has more resources at its disposal than an ordinary citizen. This is why it is so important that you reach out to a skilled and experienced truck accident lawyer who has experience in such cases and can investigate your claims to bring you your fair compensation.

Hiring a Truck Accident Lawyer in the Chicago Area

As you can see, truck accidents are subject to multiple moving parts and can be pretty complicated. It is in the victim’s best interest to reach out to an experienced personal injury attorney with Chicago Car Accident Lawyers.

Our lawyers can investigate your claims and counsel you on the best ways to proceed with your case. They will gather evidence to make your case strong, estimate how much compensation you are entitled to, and will fight on your behalf.

Our first priority will always be to prevent drawn-out legal proceedings and settle the case out of court; however, if the defendant is being unreasonable, we are not afraid to take your case to the court.

We offer free consultation and can visit you at the hospital or in-home. To schedule an appointment with us, call us today!

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